Quality and trust: At the heart of what ESU does
TALLINN – Tallinn University turned into a hub for enthusiasts about the quality assurance of education from 22 to 24 November 2012. Around four hundred people with experience ranging from public policy-making and governance in the area of higher education or quality management to students gathered for the European Quality Assurance Forum (EQAF) to share their views on whether quality assurance of higher education, as we experience it nowadays, lives up to our expectations. Never have as many students participated in the forum as this year, or thirty in total.
“In Europe, higher education is predominantly public, with a strong focus on treating students as partners, rather than consumers that need protection. Students’ participation in quality assurance is a ‘trademark’ of the Bologna process and it has received much attention during the EQAF itself,” says Karina Ufert, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union (ESU).
The main purpose of the event was to foster a dialogue on quality assurance that bridges national and organisational boundaries and creates a common European understanding of the concept (notably through the Bologna Process higher education reforms). This year the forum explored the impact of external and internal quality assurance in higher education policies and the institutional realities it faces. It aimed at addressing issues such as:
- External evaluation and institutional follow up;
- The relationship between quality assurance, pedagogical approaches and student learning;
- How quality assurance can support institutional aims and profiles;
- How quality assurance can support informed decision-making;
- The role of quality assurance in higher education.
Education is not a ‘silver bullet’
A session on quality assurance in Europe proved to be very popular among the participants, but ESU’s project on the Quest for Quality for Students (QUEST) was presented at the forum. The participants also spoke in detail about risk-management for quality assurance and how to ‘protect’ students in that regard.
“Creating the right conditions for students could help mitigating the negative aspects of risk-taking. Starting from providing proper information to students about their study opportunities, guidance and support to enhance individual student performances and their variations as well as improving access to student support services. It can be understood that in times of crisis, there is an intention to count the uncountable and measure the immeasurable to justify public spending for education policies. But one must have realistic expectations towards education, its quality and what can be done through quality assurance mechanisms. Education is not a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to employment and the current state of our economies. And markets do not necessarily reflect the real needs of the society as a whole,” says Ufert.
The EQAF forum is held annually and is co-organised by the European Students’ Union (ESU), the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the European Network for Quality Assurance (ENQA). The next (EQAF) meeting will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 21 to 23 November 2013.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 38 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.